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  • Writer's pictureLand Insight

Part 3 - Historical Commercial, Trade & Business Directories

Updated: Mar 16, 2023



A Brief Review of History, Accuracy and Reliability

Typically, directories were provided free annually and their cost was covered by advertising revenue (Busse & Rysman, 2005; Rysman, M. 2004).


Businesses valued the Pink/Yellow pages advertising because customers were exposed to it at exactly the time they were poised to buy (Busse & Rysman, 2005). This is not to say there was no advertising in the UBDs. There was, but to a much lesser extent because the publications never took off in Australia (pers. Comm. A. Phillips, 2016). Advertising driving the publications meant that businesses had a vested interest in their listings and accuracy of listings (pers. Comm. A. Phillips, 2016).


In 1975, Telecom established the National Directory Service specifically to manage the publication and distribution of its directories (Goggin, M. 2012). More advertising lead to more consumer usage, which in turn lead to more advertising (Rysman, 2004).


Historical commercial directory data is a wonderful source of secondary data that can be used to identify potential site issues, and coupled with primary sources (i.e a site inspection; interviews etc), to tailor phase 1 contamination assessments. However, users of this data should be aware of its limitations and question its validity. The consistency and likely errors of the data should always be kept in mind.


Typically, directories were provided free annually and their cost was covered by advertising revenue (Busse & Rysman, 2005; Rysman, M. 2004).


This is not to say that there were no errors in the pink/yellow pages. Advertisers sometimes made errors and the publishers made errors. We have seen errors in the historic pink and yellow pages directories, mainly in terms of suburb locations (were you located in Alexandria or Erskineville exactly? — Council boundaries were blurred), and occasionally an address was slightly different in the advertisement as opposed to the general alphabetical listing. In addition, many former locations in urban centres have been redeveloped and/or renamed/renumbered and as such addresses may no longer exist.


Couple the above listed errors with current transcription errors — print scans/PDF documents of historic directories being manually entered into databases for GIS, there may be a net error effect. Questions that should be considered include: Who is transcribing the data? How quickly? Is it being checked or verified?


Summary


Historical commercial directory data is a wonderful source of secondary data that can be used to identify potential site issues, and coupled with primary sources (i.e a site inspection; interviews etc), to tailor phase 1 contamination assessments. However, users of this data should be aware of its limitations and question its validity. The consistency and likely errors of the data should always be kept in mind.


Land Insight provides extensive historical commercial directory data currently sourced from The Post-Master General’s Dept. and Telecom/Telstra Pink and Yellow Pages and Sands. Data is checked by an independent 3rd party and again verified using GIS and scripts — prior to inclusion in all our data reports.


To find out more about our historical land use data, you can get in contact with us at hello@landinsight.co.


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